After a strong month of May, right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson appears to be finding his groove in the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation
The biggest trade made by the Pittsburgh Pirates this past offseason saw them send catcher Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins. In exchange for Stallings the Pirates received three players, one of which was right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson.
Thompson was coming off of a breakout season with the Marlins. In 27 appearances, 14 of which were starts, Thompson posted a 3.24 ERA and a 3.69 FIP in 75 innings pitched. This was the first 75 innings of Thompson’s career.
This played a big role in Thompson being inserted into the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation coming out of spring training. Overall this season Thompson’s results have not been what anyone had hoped for. In 10 appearances, 9 starts, he has posted a 5.18 ERA and a 5.06 FIP in 40 innings pitched. His strikeout rate has dropped from 21.0% to 17.3%, while his home run rate has risen from 0.72 HR/9 to 1.58 HR/9.
Thompson’s season, however, has been the story of two months. In the month of April Thompson posted a 10.06 ERA, 11.7% walk rate, 15.6% strikeout rate and a 2.51 HR/9 while averaging just 3.5 innings per start.
The month of May saw Thompson do a complete 180. Thompson pitched in 6 games in May, making 5 starts. Thompson pitched at least 5 innings in 4 of the 5 starts, posting an overall ERA of 2.45 and a FIP of 4.00 in his 25.1 innings pitched. His home run rate has dropped to 1.05 HR/9, while he’s walked just 5.9% of batters faced and his strikeout rate rose to 18.6%.
There was a notable change made by Thompson in the month of May that helped with his success. The big change was in his pitch repertoire. He decreased the use of his four-seamed fastball and increased the use of his cut fastball, something that helped lead to his success with the Marlins last season.
On the season opposing batters are hitting just .222 off of Thompson’s cutter with an average exit velocity of 84.3 MPH. Meanwhile, the average exit velocity off of his four-seamed fastball has been 92.5 MPH.
Thompson’s curveball has also contributed to his success. Opposing batters are hitting just .188 off of his curveball to go with an average exit velocity of 84.9 MPH. All of this has led to Thompson being in the 73rd percentile of baseball in chase rate.
If Thompson continues to ride his cutter as his primary pitch while mixing ins his curveball and changeup, he should continue to find success with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This would lead to Thompson continuing to provide a huge boost to the Pirate starting rotation the way he did in the month of May.